Half Year and Founder's Day Celebration

January 30, 2013

In honor of Wheelock's 125th anniversary, the College combined two of its most beloved events-Half Year Program and Founder's Day-into one daylong celebration around the theme of "Community Service and Civic Engagement."

City Year Co-founder Michael Brown and Jamie Zackery of Wheelock CollegeThe day began with keynote speaker Michael Brown, CEO and Co-Founder of City Year, who discussed civic engagement and creating your own legacy. Brown (pictured at left with Wheelock's Jamie Zackery) said that as a college student, he was swept up in the wave of idealism created by the civil rights movement and the space program.

When he was hired at the age of 20 by then-Congressman Leon Panetta to study the idea of a national service program, Brown said he knew he had found his calling. He began working with his Harvard Law School roommate, Alan Khazei, to build what would become City Year. "We decided to become social entrepreneurs," Brown said.

Since 1988, City Year has been a leader in the growing national service movement, leading to the establishment of AmeriCorps, the passage of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, and the creation of Voices for National Service. City Year focuses solely on fighting the national dropout crisis, sending its corps members to high-poverty urban schools to work as tutors and mentors for students in grades 3-9.

"We're convinced that by tapping into the idealism and energy of young people, we can move the needle [on dropout rates]," Brown told the Half Year audience. Brown encouraged Wheelock students to do three "squishy things" every day, which he defined as things you are uncomfortable doing, such as public speaking or stepping in to right an injustice. "If you do, it builds a habit of leadership," he said.

Brown was joined on stage by Wheelock students and City Year alumni Guillermo Caballero and Sam Mitchell, who described their City Year experiences. In a touching spoken word performance, Caballero described the contagious excitement of the students he worked with as "an exploding nebula." Mitchell talked about a troubled student he mentored who has become a straight-A students at one of Boston's exam schools.

MC Lyte at Wheelock CollegeThe second keynoter, MC Lyte, founder of Hip Hop Sisters Network shared her message of community service, self-empowerment, and activism. "Will you be the one who stands up to make a difference?" she asked the students.

Lyte (pictured at right) talked about growing up in Brooklyn, her musical influences, and spoke about how success means different things to different people. In response to a question about advice for young women, Lyte said, "Know your power." Her overarching advice was to "think bigger than yourself," saying that if your goals are just about you, then you stand less of a chance to be successful.

As part of Half Year, Wheelock also hosted a Youth Symposium, in which youths from local middle and high schools heard from MC Lyte about empowerment and responsibility.

This year, Wheelock combined Half Year with Founder's Day, which is held each year in honor of Wheelock Founder Lucy Wheelock, who was born Feb. 1, 1857.

Founders Day celebration at Wheelock CollegeThe goal of Wheelock's annual Half Year program is to celebrate the beginning of a new academic year, but to also bring together students, faculty, and staff to collectively explore topics that are important to our community. This year's Half Year and Founder's Day theme connects back to Lucy Wheelock's inspiring legacy of leading change and engaging with the community.

The 2013 combined event included a Community Service Fair at Wheelock's Campus Center, where 208 students signed up for 11 service projects with agencies from the Greater Boston area, such as Ronald McDonald House, Rosie's Place, Pine Street Inn, and more. Most of the service projects will be completed during Wheelock World Service Weekend in April.

The Half Year and Founder's Day celebration also included a birthday party with cake and it wrapped up with a Dance Party for students with guest DJ MC Lyte.

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